Why bother booking your airline travel in advance if you can't get your seat assignment until 20 minutes before your flight anyway.

My business trip was booked weeks in advance with United Airlines. I can say that the flight down was not too shabby although I had to shove my suit in a small carry-on so I did not incur a costly fee to put a larger bag under the plane. My co-workers and I sat together which was beneficial when discussing the purpose of our trip.

But I was not so lucky on the ride home. First, 3 out of 4 of us had no seat assignment. The rep at the gate said they had to make sure they allowed enough time for their "preferred" travelers to choose their seating. The preferred travelers could pay to get the seat they wanted. About 20 minutes before boarding they released the remaining seats and gave each person a number to be called to get their actual assignment. Well even though my co-workers and I were 1, 2, 3, we were separated out all over the plane. No time for debriefing.

The best part is that my seat was in the second to last row, I was called to board last, and by the time I got to the door there was no room left for my small carry-on bag. I had to check the bag under the plane.

Here is what this experience has taught me:
  1. Airlines want to make things as inconvenient as possible to ensure they will accrue the most revenue.
  2. You do not need to arrive at the airport 2 hours before a domestic flight because you won't get your seat anyway.
  3. Although there is no cost to bring a carry-on bag, there is no guarantee it will not need to be checked anyway.
  4. Airlines DO NOT do everything in their power to make sure the customer is satisfied.

In the world of strategic sourcing when choosing a "preferred" supplier, it is always best to have several references and not only to rely on the "Customer Satisfaction Guaranteed" tag line!

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Leigh Merz

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